Days after our first son Levy was born I was already thinking about the time when he'd be out of the house.
Heartless, I know.
The reality is, I was struck by the (God-given) weight of responsibility and the journey Daniela and I had just embarked on. Parenting.
I wanted to embrace it. My mind was filled with all things past, present and future.
The 'waiting' period before he arrived.
Hugs & kisses.
Smelling his tiny feet.
Family trips. Family devotionals. Family movie's.
And more bills.
I wanted to be all there for our son.
I knew our time together would be too short and the day would soon come when he's on his own (i.e. Entrusted into the Sovereign hands of our loving God!).
Women, mothers specifically, don't really give much thought to life-after-children. They have the tendency, better said, an innate capacity, to keep their 'chicks' close. They hug, they hover, they hear, they hope, they help...even when the 'children' are not children anymore. Fathers, in general, have no problem thinking ahead to a time and place when it's just him and his bride. Even while the kiddos are still in grade school they're making plans for that trip around the world when it'll be just him and his best friend.
For all you married couples, this is not a mandatory checklist of things to do before your children are gone. It's simply a practical guide for you to think about and implement while they're still at home. With that said, I can't imagine there's any couple out there who wouldn't want to do these things or find them important in some way or another. For us, it's a work in progress.
Here's how we're preparing for a time when it will be just the two of us...
1. Doing Side Work or a Hobby Together
For the one-income family, it's easy to fall in a rut where the husband or the wife is gone working most of the day while the other is at home managing the fort. With time, it can create an unhealthy tension between the two. One thinks he/she is skilled, capable, and deserving of respect. The other doesn't feel valued or heard and is borderline, dare I say it among us Christians, depressed. Of course, this can happen in families where both spouses are working as well.
Drifting can happen to any couple. Don't think you're prone just because you're 'involved' in church, wear matching outfits on special occasions, say your prayers before bedtime together, or both agree that the Democrats have gone too far. You get the idea. Life is tough. You need to be clothed with the full armor of God.
When you're both doing something together on a consistent basis it will help build a good foundation for life after kids.
How to work together on something:
2. Talking & Spending Time Together
You may think this is one of those goes-without-saying statements. I could hear someone exclaiming: Danny, of course we have to talk & spend time together, we're married! Not so fast. We live in an era where we tend to spend more time looking at our screens then we do looking into one another's eyes. I don't want to be that empty-nester couple sitting across from each other at at home or a restaurant with my face in my phone, totally ignoring the 'love' of my life.
Godly marriages don't just happen. We need to be intentional. I can't expect to have a thriving relationship with my wife if I'm not investing in it.
Ways you can spend more time together:
3. Creating Opportunities of Independence for Our Children
Cue the Frozen music - 'Let [them] go...Let [them] go...'
It's very hard at first, but as your children grow into young adults it's important to give them opportunities to make decisions, do things and go places...without you. With borders of course. This builds some healthy independence (not to be confused with self-dependence), helping them to detach a bit.
Our children are still young but we've made a big stride recently when Daniela and I left them with my mom for a weekend while we went to a wedding in Texas. We thank God that it went really well, overall. And the good thing is, it will be easier next time.
Small steps to let them go:
No one's going to miss that squeaky ironing table or those old clothes in the basement that you haven't worn for years. Throw them away, or give them away, whichever makes more sense. While your children are still at home, start getting rid of things around the house that you simply don't need now and/or won't need in the future. Why? Well, I for one, don't want to find myself spending time alone with my wife in a house filled with lots of junk. How romantic.
You'd be surprised at how many things you have that you don't need. Take an hour on a Saturday morning, with paper and pencil in hand, and walk through each area of your house. Make a quick note of all the items that are just taking up space and are no longer needed (or, better yet, take pictures of everything and send multiple texts to your spouse so they can get on board too!).
Benefits to de-cluttering:
5. Connecting with Other Couples in the Same Stage of Life
Staying connected with other couples that are close in age & life-stage helps keep you and your spouse grounded. You're reminded that the struggles you go through are common. You're not 'the only one' facing a particular trial or hardship. Side note: This helps with self-pity and depression as well. When you have friends with whom you can enjoy the beautiful family moments that make up life, it gives you a more balanced perspective.
Ways to connect with other families:
Hope you connected with some of these thoughts. God bless all you parents out there embracing the present moments with your children while looking ahead to the future. Enjoy the journey!
Keep the Fire Burning,
with Danny & Daniela Kovacs
No family is an island. Join us as we share candid discussions, Biblical advice & resources to help keep God at the center of your faith, family and career.